When I was 12, my mom had a boyfriend who was a bit of a hippie. He was often unemployed, so he was at the house when my mom was at work and I got home from school. He monopolized the TV and subjected me to endless episodes of Doctor Who — with the 4th doctor, Tom Baker. I don’t like sci fi to this day.
Oh, did the hippie do anything inappropriate? No! Not to me. And if he had, he would have been on the street faster than you can say “Allons y.” This lasted until my mom asked him to leave, for other reasons, a few years later.
When I was 13, we moved into a new neighborhood, and I spent a lot of time in the yard: mowing, making a rock garden, trimming branches, weeding. The neighbor who lived directly across from us noticed. He would come over and talk to my mom once in a while. He called me a “hard worker” more than once. In fact, I think that was his nickname for me! Later, when I was old enough, he put in a good word and helped me get a job at the same place where he worked across town. On nights when we had the same shift, he would give me a ride to work. He never said or did anything inappropriate in my presence. This lasted through my senior year, until I moved away for college.
I was 14, an insecure freshman in a small school, and this upperclassman took a liking to me. We held hands under his jacket on the bleachers while pretending to watch the basketball game. He left elaborate love notes in my locker. I just melted. We spent as much time as we could together, and had plenty of unsupervised time in the mix. At one point, I told him that I thought we should slow things down a bit. I was so afraid that he would break up with me — and I did not want to lose the security I had in our relationship. Instead, he agreed that we might be getting too romantic, and we could be more careful. He never forced himself on me. He just… loved me. This lasted for 3-4 years.
After my freshman year of college, I moved home and took a summer job. This one guy, who was a bit older, seemed to be drawn to me right away. I gave him my phone number. We went out a few times. He drove a total jalopy: had to park it on a hill facing downhill, so that he could roll start it and pop the clutch when it was time to leave. I don’t even remember where we went, but he let me drive his car, and we talked about topics that we both enjoyed. We exchanged letters when I went back to college. Eventually, he tired of me trying to witness to him in said letters, and faded away.
After college, I moved to the Big City. I had never lived in a city before. I started going out with a guy I had met at a jazz concert. (He was helping the stage crew that night, and I was in the audience. Our eyes met, and we both instantly wanted to talk to one another.) He took me to an art gallery once; he introduced me to sushi; he always paid for my dinner. Neither of us had a car; it was the city! One night we went back to his place because we were enjoying talking to one another. I was really tired. It was so late that the subway had stopped for the night, so he paid a taxi to take me back to my place. That is all. This lasted until we parted ways amicably because I wasn’t ready for a commitment right then (and he was).
Is this anti-climactic? Were you looking for more?
I am not trying to be satirical here. I do not wish to make light of any woman’s terrible experience with a man. But as I thought through my own experiences, I realized how many gentlemen there have been my life. Even though my father left my mom when I was an infant, and her next husband had some serious problems, and I have met some jerks over the last 4 decades–I just want to honor all the men who are doing the right thing every day.
These guys I have described did not have a specific “rule,” that I know of. They simply knew what was appropriate and they stayed on that side of the line. Their consciences were intact, and they heeded that God-given voice of reason. I’m so thankful that they let me into their cars, and their lives, and did not shut me out because I am female.
All these stories that are coming out about celebrities and politicians being wildly (or mildly, in a few cases) inappropriate are shocking. At the same time, they are not surprising. Power corrupts. Hollywood has been glorifying for us models of hedonistic, even vulgar forms of human interaction for so many years. Did we expect that the Hollywood producers put this garbage out for our entertainment, but somehow just “knew better” and were living like Ward and June Cleaver at home?
Matt Lauer: now that one really threw everyone for a loop. He seemed like such a nice guy. But why are we so surprised? The Bible tells us that we all have a sin nature, and it can show itself in so many ways: pride, hate, jealousy, lust, disrespect for others, theft, gluttony, adultery, idol worship…. So, what happened to make us forget that? Were we buying into Matt’s image of himself, and forgetting our common sin nature? Did we take comfort in tuning in each morning and pretending that everything was OK as we listened to the soothing voices talking to us about comforting topics? (I don’t know; I don’t watch daytime TV. I seek out programs that tackle the complexity of humanity, like Breaking Bad. Now that was… bad. 😀 But it was so insightful.)
Anyhow, real life is hard, and more complicated than any Hollywood story arc. I am so, so sorry for all the women who have been molested or abused in various ways, or denied things that they deserved, just because of their refusal to indulge inappropriate desires of men who held more power. And today I am giving a nod to all the good fellas out there who have stayed the sweet boys their mamas raised; who have tried to be gentlemen; who may have suffered with impure thoughts or temptations but managed to resist them. Hats off to you! You know who you are.
I also want to thank and praise my heavenly Father for keeping me safe during those naive years, and for giving me comforting friendships along the way, even though life is hard and some of the valleys were very deep. Maybe someday, if there is a trendy hashtag about the pain of living in broken homes or being a lost child, I will tell sad some stories. (Probably not.) Or maybe some repressed memory will come to the surface someday. (May all the bad memories be brought to the Light for healing.)
For now, I am going to continue to listen to the stories of the #metoo women, and mourn with them, and pray that the hearts of the men who have sinned against them would be broken, and that we would see a spiritual revival in our land.